Backpack

Links, gear lists, calendar, & older trip reports. Trip reports 2008 on are in my journal 

Backpacking Links

Dallas Sierra Club, Sierra Club links, National Sierra ClubBackpacking 101 page, National Park Service home, National Forests home, GORP, Trailfinder, Grand Canyon1Grand Canyon2, Big Sur, Oklahoma (also see OK Sierra Club), Big Bend State Park, BBSP2Backpacker Forum, Ultralight site,  Swimswithtrout Beartooth reports, Wind Rivers, Freezer bag cooking, more links here (buying stuff)

Links to my pages

Home #1, Journals: 2008 on, 2007.22007, 2006, Personal Page, Asia Trips 2005, 2006,2007, Asia Photos, Budget Guides to Southeast AsiaHong Kong, A Cottage Garden, Refugees, Israel & the Middle East, Haiphong Red Flamboyant, East Dallas Restaurants, Home #2

 o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o

 

Buy stuff

Campmor, REI, maps, e.g., John Muir Trail, Zen stove links, Backcountry.com/, Craigslist, Ebay, Mountaingear, Sierra Designs

 

Planning calendar

 

Asia

Grnd Can

Rocky

Mts

Sierra

Bskin/

Paria

Big Bend

N Cali

Appa

New

Mex 

Okla &

Ark

Jan 

x

 

 

 

 

x

x

 

 

 x 

Feb 

x

 

 

 

x

(wet)

 

 

 x 

Mar 

x

x

 

 

x

 

(wet)

 

 

 x

Apr 

x

x

 

 

x

 

(wet)

 

 

 x

May 

x

x

 

 

x

 

(wet)

 

 

 x 

June 

 

 

 

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

July 

 

 

x

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

Aug 

 

 

x

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

Sep 

x

x

x

x

 

 

x

 

 

  x 

Oct 

x

x

 

 

 x

 x

x

 

 

 x

Nov 

x

x

 

 

 x

 x

x

 

 

 x

Dec 

x

 

 

 

 

 x

x

 

 

  x 

Year-round: Lost Coast, some other Cali, Oklahoma (see below)

Winter: Asia, Big Bend, Big Bend State Park (links above), Grand Canyon, Buckskin Gulch/Paria Wilderness

Spring: Big Bend, Arkansas, Oklahoma - also see winter

Summer: Colorado, Wyoming, Montana

Local (N TX): Texoma, Dinosaur, Mineral Wells State Park

Other close TX & OK: Bastrop, Hill Country (close Dec & Jan), Ouachita National Forest, McGee Creek State Park

 

Take

Meds, related: TAC. Mupirocin, Ibu 400 #30, Rx medicine x __ days, Fiber, Sun screen, DEET, Moleskin, Sun glasses, Sleeper for bus, Band aids, Ace bandage, Tweezers, Vaseline, chewing gum, Toothbrush/paste, Floss

Water: 1 Nalgene and rest Gatorade bottles 1 liter & ½ liter, Electrolytes?, Water purify (if iodine, check # tabs)

Food, related: Stove, Fuel, Zip-locks, Pot (water), Scrubber & soap, Cup, Bowl, Spoon (bigger bowled one?), Knife, Brawny disposable or 1-2 paper towels/day

- Breakfast: Coffee, Oatmeal with fruit (mango, blueberry, apple), sugar, dry milk, pecans, take indiv butter in twist of Saran wrap

- Lunch: Tortillas (Central Mkt) OR bread with cheese OR Almond butter & dry fruit, Slice turkey & tortillas OR Powerbar

- Dinner: Dry chili, etc., chilli pepper, Tortillas with cheese, Thai soup indiv baggie w/peanuts in twist Saran, Knorr sides. Fortify with packet from cooler beef, turkey, etc. for 1st couple of days, then canned or packets chicken, tuna, salmon (plainer prep like teryaki etc.), Hot tea,

- Snack: GORP (nuts, raisins, dark choc chips), bar

Sleeping bag, foot fleece or booties or down jacket, Tent, pad & tarp

Clothes: Hat, T shirt, Underwear regular, Underwear long, Socks, Pants, Sweater, Parka, Fleece, Gloves, Rain jacket (maybe pants), Change of clothes x 1 (pants, t shirt, underwear, socks), Down jacket 

Other: Compass, Map, Rope, cord, multi-tool, toilet paper & wipes/bag, trowel, shoes for rivers?, tarp  

ID, credit, insurance, money, camera

 

 

I'm having a hard time keeping this up-to-date. At this point everything I'm writing is going in to my journalI need to come up with a different format anyway, because I'm running out of space.  (Photo: Clouds flowing down through pass at Big Bend in the early morning. You could see them flowing, pouring through the pass. My 1st backpacking trip of my later life. Photo by Larry)

 

Backpacking in the Bandelier Wilderness (May, 2008)

 

We were on the road again about 4:30am Monday, headed west through Fort Worth, then northwest through Wichita Falls and Amarillo; west to Tucumcari (still not much there except some low rent motels, but nicer than before); northwest into wide open New Mexico through Las Vegas with the snow-topped Sangre de Cristo Mountains off into the distance; into Santa Fe (a Wild Oats/Whole Foods right on the highway for a nice place to stop for whatever) and then north and west to Bandelier. Along the way along old Route 66, along the train tracks headed out west we saw wild turkeys, camels, pronghorn antelope, hawks … 

Keep on rollin’

Just a mile to go,

Keep on rollin’, my old buddy,

You’re movin’ much too slow

 

Leavin’ Texas

Fourth day of July

Sun so hot, clouds so low

The eagles filled the sky.

 

Catch the Detroit Lightning

Out of Santa Fe

The Great Northern out of Cheyenne

From sea to shining sea

 

Jeff said that going to a rest home is probably about like being in prison or the Marine Corps. There’ll be people and things you don’t like, but you just gotta learn to deal with it because nobody’s getting out until they do their time – which in a rest home is usually 3-6 years before they carry you out the back.

 

Got into Bandelier around 5pm and went first to the ranger station to work out our route, then to Juniper Campground (drive-in campsites) where we set up our tent and grilled sausages for dinner (with salad from Wild Oats, bread from home, water). We pitched the tent without a fly, so it was a cool, open night. Up at 7am, had cereal with milk from the ice chest, broke camp fast, and drove to the ranger station to leave the car and hit the trail up Frijoles Canyon. Photo: Cliff dwellings

 

The first mile or so of the trail was paved – and took us to the Anasazi Indian (ancestors of the Pueblo Indians) cliff dwellings along and in the cliffs on the northeast side of the canyon. We spent an hour or so in the caves, structures, and ruins there and then on up the shady trail through Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine alongside and back and forth across the mountain stream running cold and clear through the canyon. The canyon walls were 200-300 feet high, with the NE side having vertical to overhanging rock and most of the SW side steep rocky scrub, though there were places with walls on both sides, and sometimes within a 100 feet of one another. There were ferns (some maidenhair), horsetails, violets, columbines, lady’s slippers, what looked like strawberries in first bloom, and other wet woodland plants all along the trail. There was one place where a spring flowed across the trail and into the stream and there was a clump of iris in full bloom in the mud beside the trail. Photo: Jeff on the trail

 

The walk was only slightly uphill, but we were tired and glad to get to a good campsite around 2pm in “Zone F” on the NE side of the stream (there were many good sites on the SW side of the stream) (6-7 miles). I guess we were feeling the effects of age and the 7000 foot altitude. We pitched the tent on the thick carpet of pine needles among tall Ponderosa pines at the base of the cliff. We fixed the main meal of the day by around 3pm – freezer bag homemade dehydrated chili, cheese, crackers, and water. We used a cat food can stove and denatured alcohol to cook and it worked just fine. Jeff took a nap in the tent and I walked up to the bottom of the cliff amongst the rocks and found a shady spot where I wrote for awhile, then dozed. I went back down to the campsite and we talked for awhile, had an energy bar for a snack and turned in as soon as it was dark. Photo: Stream

 

In the morning we had FB oatmeal with apples and pecans, and coffee. We talked about the route and decided to take an easier loop than originally planned – the new route was shorter and had less up/downhill. This decision lightened my mind quite a bit. We continued up the canyon and at the Upper Crossing headed up the Mesa del Rito. It was a good hump up switchbacks to the top of the mesa. We walked about a mile back to the SE above the canyon and stopped around 2pm (~4 miles). There were junipers and then Ponderosa pines and we found a great campsite slightly below the top of the mesa. The site was among huge Ponderosas, completely level and soft with pine needles. We pitched the tent without the fly and fixed the main meal – FB mashed potatoes, Spam, rosemary, butter, cheese, and bread. We’ve had several single serving packets of Spam around since the last trip to Asia. On the packets is written, “Just rip and tear your way to crazy tasty town”. Okey dokey. Photo: Cougar scat

 

Jeff took a nap and I walked to the edge of the mesa to write. I watched a hawk ride the wind high above the canyon and then the wind got bigger and bigger and the hawk was gone and I dozed, leaning against a Ponderosa with the wind blowing over me. We hung out by the tent, talking and then to sleep as soon as the sun went down.

 

Around midnight I awoke with rain on my face. We got the fly on in less than a minute (fortunately we’d already set rocks ready to anchor the fly). We slept well with the rain pattering on the roof of our tent like a little cave. Thanks to the decision to shorten the route, we had no need to get up at any particular time. The rain let up around 9am and we fixed FB oatmeal with dried mango and pecans, and coffee. Moments before we finished it began raining again and we laid up in the tent for another hour or so. Photo: Campsite on Mesa del Rito

 

As soon as the rain slacked off, we broke camp and headed down the trail at a Captain Kappleman pace (he was the C Company Commander and always set a fierce pace). It rained some, hailed (little pellets) some, and there was a little thunder – the reason for the fast pace. We were glad to get well off the mesa. By then were so close to the ranger station we decided to not pitch (a wet) camp and walked on out down the side of the canyon (where we realized how extensive the ruins are as we walked above them on the opposite side of the canyon) and back to the car (~5 miles).

 

It was a good trip, easy hiking, not as harsh a desert environment as Big Bend. While we were in the wilderness area we saw eight other people. We saw summer tanagers, robin red breasts (with brighter colors and sharper markings than what we usually see in Dallas), several different hawks, flickers, canyon wrens, wily old crows, vultures, and many others. We saw mule deer, squirrels, lizards, one snake, and clear blue skies, clouds, rain, hail, and rare beauty. Photo: CK cooking, 1st afternoon on the trail. Stove is inside the foil windscreen on the right.

 

Some lessons learned: New pack from REI and trekking poles good. Homemade dehydrated food much better (and cheaper) than bought. 5-7 miles in about 5 hours is about right for Jeff and me.

 

More photos are on WorldisRound

Big Bend, 3/2008

Random thoughts:
- Desert backpacking demands clear communications about water. My mate Jeff said (with 1st hand experience), “Everything is a problem in the jungle.” Same in the desert.
- Take chewing gum next time.
- Dried mango from Central Market is really good in oatmeal with dry milk, sugar, and pecans.
- How about them Mexicans, coming across the desert with poor or no trails, tennis shoes, girlfriend, child! Amazing. David said, How about them Jews in the wilderness! Ranchers out here in the desert! How about them Cowboys! Lot of tough people.
- If you’re urinating more than once/12 hours, you’re drinking too much water. Just kidding.

- We went 3 days, 7-8 miles a day. I need to rest on the 4th day. I'm getting stronger, but have a ways to go. On this route, it’s important to start out early on the first day.
- I can’t wait to hike in places with water. Wash, carry 1-2 liters, have all I want.
- When you’re going to be driving a long way, before you leave, eat a jalapeño with your fingers and don’t wash your hands after you eat. When you get sleepy, just stick a finger in your eye. Just the idea of it kept me awake quite awhile on the way back. Photo: 1st campsite with late afternoon sun bright on the mountains and evening shadows falling over the campsite

This trip to Big Bend started in Houston where I’d gone for a two day primary care conference. I had lunch with David and his mentor, Judy. Thanks Judy! After a harrowing drive through dark hour/rush hour/driving rain in Houston traffic had dinner with David and his friend (and cellist), Lauren at a North Indian restaurant near the Rice campus. Very nice evening, crowned by not getting lost on the way back to the LaQuinta way out somewhere in north Houston. I was the only person there with a button-down collar shirt on and not driving a truck and not smoking. Friday I stayed at the conference as long as I could stand, then headed to David’s around 4pm. Photo: David & Lauren rehearsing

Lauren came over to practice a Beethoven viola/cello duet they’re working on. “But we did it like together and it was awesome” and so here I am in magicland listening to David and Lauren work their way through the duet. Young, serious musicians.
Let’s do it again.” “OK, again.”
Can you do it on the g string so you don’t have to shift so much?” “No.”
Was I slow?” “Yeah.”
Not bad.”
Again.”

We left Houston a little later than planned, I under-estimated the driving time (with a little help from google), and I couldn’t stay awake driving late into the night so had to stop three times for fitful naps. Getting closer to the park we saw many jackrabbits and cotton tails beside the road and then saw two javelinas (“the only wild, native, piglike animal found in the United States”).

After getting a wilderness permit at the Basin, filling our water bottles, stashing some water at the Homer Wilson Ranch, and losing the map, we finally got on the trail around 10
. Weather was beautiful, cool, sunny and the hike up to the pinnacles was stout. When we got to Boot Canyon, a ranger-type guy said (kind of smirkishly) that there was no water, but we looked a little further downstream and found a nice semi-stagnant pool. We missed the turn-off to Juniper Canyon, but doubled back a little way and started back up (panting) and then down down down until we came to what I guess was on old campsite 6-7 miles from the Basin and coming out of the mountains. Got the tent up and dinner fixed just as dusk fell. Had Italian pasta (Pasta Roni brand + a little added olive oil) with a packet of teriyaki tuna for dinner (good) and were in our bags by 7:15, which was just fine because we'd each had about an hour of sleep in the past 36 hours and had a good day’s hike at the end of the 36 hours. David said he thought my stamina was “pretty impressive” – which made me feel very good. Photo: Classic Big Bend - from our 1st campsite. From here we go down and into the desert in the center of the photo.


We both got up to pee at the same time and realized then we were camped in a kind of cirque with the mountains dark masses on three sides and the horizon and sky meeting black in Mexico on the 4th side and the stars like desert stars so many more than one sees in other places and the milky way really milky – part of the reward for hiking into the desert.

Got up 12 hours after lying down for the deepest imaginable sleep. Ahhh – not too sore or stiff, but LOL not not sore, either. Oatmeal with dried cranberries, dried mangoes, pecans, dry milk, and sugar for breakfast (of champions). Coffee me, tea David. Photo: DK In the tent

Broke camp and started off with more downhill to the floor of the desert, then a long level stretch and somewhere along the way David said something about warm Gatorade in the car and that’s when we realized there had been a serious miscommunication because I thought he had those two quarts of Gatorade in his pack. Instead of 8.5 liters, we had 6.5 liters between us. We started rationing what we had and the hiking got harder and we began to get thirsty and a little dehydrated – 20 seconds after drinking and swishing our mouths would be bone dry. We were down to 0.4 liter
when we finally got to Fresno Creek, a small rivulet of okay water. Happy us! Drank the rest of our water and filled our bottles and platypus, straining the water through a t-shirt. After treating with iodine and neutralizer it was still cloudy. Oh well, at this point, no doubt about it, particles or iodine taste or cloudy no problem for me.

That 2nd night by Fresno Creek we spread a ground cover out and lay there a long time watching the stars come out. It seems like you’d blink or look off at one part of the sky and when your eyes opened or you looked back there would be more stars. I slept outside and David in the tent. I didn’t sleep as log-like as I did the first night, but every time I opened my eyes there was the sky, black and sparkling and not a sound. The last time I saw the sky like this was when we were climbing in Arches and Fisher Towers so long ago – good to be back! Photo: DK at Fresno Creek
Another great oatmeal breakfast and refilled our water and saddled up and hit that dusty trail again. There was a huge difference traveling with 6.5 liters of water vs. less than 2 cups. Oh, and it's not as if we were in any great danger.


We drank extravagantly along the trail through the beautiful (in a desert sort of way) desert wilderness. I realized that we had seen one flower the entire time. We would see or hear a bird from time to time and I saw one of those lizards that runs on its hind legs – fast. Up and down, up and down, then a stretch along a dry, gravely creek and then more hills and behind the hills mighty ramparts like (as David said) castles. The trail is well-cairned and there’s only trail and as someone said, If you get off the trail you’ll know it soon enough because it’s all thorns.

Somewhere along the way we topped a hill and rested looking in front of us across the desert and behind us into a bowl in the sere hills rolling down to the place where we’d been. The desert stretches beyond where we can see and the thing is, I don’t know if you can drive to see something like this because what you see isn’t just that thing – there’s also the seer and the relationship to what’s seen and there’s no free rides to this.

As we, or maybe I should say, as I tired, David said, “Just over this hill is a river. With meadows. Green grass. And bunnies. Puppybunnies.” (Family term) Up and down, now traversing the hills and finally we saw a few people up on a ridge to our left (west), but didn’t attach significance to them. Then David said, “There’s a house ahead.” And I realized the people were probably at the overlook over the Homer Wilson ranch and when I saw the house, thought it was that ranch – then below the ridge we saw the bear box with our water in it. That felt good! Photo: Lingam near Fresno Creek

It was about 5 miles from there into the mountains and 3pm on day three we decided to walk up to the highway and hitchhike back to the Basin. The day short of water took it out of at least me, and I was not disappointed to skip the last leg. I’m stronger than I was Thanksgiving, but still have a way to go. Thanks to David for accommodating my slower pace. At least I don’t complain (if you don’t count moaning and groaning, puffing and panting, and so on).

We were hitching and a man stopped who only had room for one person and no packs. So I rode with him back to the Basin. He’s a retired school teacher from Long Island and a long-time outdoorsman. Since retiring he’s spent most of his time on the road in a pickup with a topper or scuba diving. I don’t have in mind as much time on the road nor am I interested in scuba diving, but there were plenty of similarities between us. We had a good time talking. I did feel some sadness thinking about being away from Leslie for a month or so while I hike in the Winds and Glacier. And I’m months from doing it. But in my mind, I am committed, and looking forward to answering the call … as John Muir put it:

The mountains call

and I must go.”

The man took me right to our car - Thanks! I drove back and picked David up and we drove on out. As we pulled out of the Border Patrol checkpoint 40 or 50 miles up the road a javelina dashed out of the scrub, whirled around in the dirt beside the road and then shot across the road looking like a small, weird, narrow, hairy VW with little legs going as fast as they could. A "pig-like" creature. Driving through the scrub desert I thought about the hard lives that people out here lead and the people who’ve tried to tell their stories, Larry McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson, Pat Green …

When the sun hits it right on its way down, it was the prettiest thing in our little town.
Every hour I'd sneak a glance over at the plastic frame and cracked glass that holds the picture of Ruby's two sad daughters.
Last mill closed when I was nine and Daddy left and Momma cried again, I spent my nights cleaning Ruby's floors,
Just another café on a wind swept highway the farmers bitched, we're no good at football anymore.

In this land that knows no laughter in this land that holds no water,
We were all in love with Ruby's two sad daughters.

One went way out west, one went way wrong,
one left at seventeen and the other couldn't wait that long.
Neither went anywhere with me, not to the games or the Dairy Queen.
Both split with the first boy who lied sweet and looked vaguely mean.

In this land that knows no laughter in this land that hold no water,
We were all in love with Ruby's two sad daughters.

Why so pretty and forlorn, why so permanently blue
I guess ours wasn't much of a kingdom to rule.

Now when the sun hits it right on its way down, it's still the prettiest thing in our little town. Every hour I sneak a glance over at the plastic frame and I fix the glass that holds the picture of Ruby's two sad daughters. Why did hope leave town with Ruby's two sad daughters?

On the road again, stopping (where else) at the Dairy Queen in Ozona where a surly Hispanic kid lounged in a booth, eating french fries and sneaking kisses with the girl who had the headset on taking drive-through orders walking out pretending to do something for a customer and then stealing her moments in the booth. Across the desert with it's big sky and big rigs lit up like houses at Christmas running smooth into the night, into the plains and into San Antonio. Hit fog, heavy at times between San Antonio and Houston. On the outskirts of Houston, getting really tired, there was a beautiful choral Easter mass on the radio, but we could have used something a little more lively ... when the mass was over, the radio announcer said, "Next, a lute concerto by ..." and we just cracked up and put on a country station. Got in about 3am. Showered - ahhh. I slept on the floor, we had breakfast tacos in the morning and I was on the road back to Leslie around 9am.

Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros singing Ruby's Two Sad Daughters
I'll post this trip report later at my backpacking page. New links:
http://jasonklass.blogspot.com/

http://www.trailgear.org/

 

Big Bend 12/2007-1/2008 (more photos at WorldisRound)

Jeff and I were in the 26th Marines together. He was in rockets & I was in guns. We survived and after VN, lived together in Dallas and in Nevada. Now we're old and still at it ... like the others, this trip was a great blessing. Photo: Packed & ready to go

 

We left Dallas about 4pm. Stopped at the “99 Cents Only” store to buy a bowl for Jeff and headed on the road. We took Highway 30 and then 20 West through Ft. Worth all the way to Monahans past Odessa, then south on 385 into the park. Big Bend is huge – 800,000 acres – and driving slow through the dark in the desert was a trip unto itself. We saw deer, jack rabbits (one of which stayed in the road ahead of us dodging this way and that trying to get away, but not leaving the road for a long while), and as we went into the Chisos Mountains, we saw what we thought was a young coyote – but it had a big bushy tail and we realized we were driving along behind a kit fox! I’d never seen a fox in the wild, and this one stayed in the road ahead of the car for several minutes, loping along, looking back now and again, and finally turning off the road into the brush and cactus.

 

I had calculated the time to get to Big Bend at 12 hours because I was thinking in terms of how long it would take me to get from Dallas to Big Bend if I was driving by myself, but Jeff had straight through in mind, so we ended up driving into the Chisos Basin where the ranger station is about 3am. We tried sleeping in the car, but it was no bueno/muy uncomfortable, so we gave that up and unrolled our sleeping pads and bags beside the car and slept a little in the parking lot. It was cold, with the wind blowing (what seemed like) straight into our bags. We slept maybe an hour, staggered up about 7 and got our gear and water in shape and waited for the ranger station to open at 8. The park was pretty full, but we were first on the day, so got about what we wanted – and I think actually we got better campgrounds than what we asked for. And I got a lifetime Senior Pass (America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass) – my first senior deal. Photo below: Boulder Meadow looking toward Pinnacles

 

We struck out on the Pinnacles Trail from the Basin. I guess the first day is nearly always one of the hardest (here is what I wrote the afternoon of that 1st day): I hope this is true, because I don’t want a harder day than today! A long slow march up, up, up & up – many rest stops – until we finally got to our campsite at Toll Mountain (TM1). It’s a good site, if somewhat high and exposed (to the wind). We set up the tent and fixed a meal of freeze-dried beef stew (it was okay) – all we’d had to eat since yesterday afternoon was a “junior bacon cheeseburger” at Wendy’s and a granola bar this morning.

 

And here I sit in the afternoon sun on the side of a mountain, on a rocky trail (them rocks don’t feel too bad when you’re really tired), dozing and writing. This is the warmest I’ve been since we left the car (to sleep on the parking lot). It’s gonna be cold tonight.

 

Moving now to a grassy area with more sun and lying down, curled up in clumps of tall grass with the fragrance of grass and piñon and the sun warm on me like Buddy in the back yard – a warm dozy nap.

 

We had oatmeal for dinner (pecan maple sugar that Leslie gave me for Christmas – the Best!). In our bags just past dark and I was out like a light by 8pm. I slept very well despite us being at the true crest (vs. military crest) of a high ridge at the top of the Pinnacles with a strong wind blowing. Leslie made me a fleece bag to put inside my sleeping bag to keep my feet warm and that was very nice. Jeff woke me up in the middle of the night: “Are you okay?” “Yeah.” “I couldn’t hear you breathing.” “Yeah I’m fine.” I don’t think he’s slept very well since the war.

 

In the morning we had a double ration of oatmeal and coffee. We were slow getting up and slow breaking camp. We headed down the trail about 10. Filled our water bottles at a pool near Boot Spring, then up the trail to the Northeast Rim. It was an easier hike than the first day, but still, we were pushing. Photo below: From Pinnacles (sitting at an eyrie) looking to the Basin

 

We’ve seen a fair number of people on the trail (except on this last section) – nearly all young, friendly, good-looking. We saw a pregnant woman, someone else with a 2-3 year-old riding along in a backpack frame – really fine to see/interact with these people. I am the oldest and slowest person on the trail, but I’m on the trail.

 

We got to the campsite (NE3) about 2pm, pitched our tent and fixed a hot meal. Yesterday and today we ate Backpacker’s Pantry freeze-dry meals for two, one of which, the Cajun chicken we had this day, seemed to produce quite a bit of noxious gas. The meals are okay, but definitely need additional meat. I broke the bottom out of my cheap plastic bowl yesterday, so ate out of a freezer bag for the rest of the journey. A doe and her fawn came by, maybe 30 yards away, and that was good to see.

 

After we ate Jeff slept and I walked to the rim, looking across into Mexico in disbelief that people walk across this desert wearing tennis shoes, with babies, girlfriends, in the night. It’s a far-arching vista from up here across the desert floor to the mountains in Mexico. Right now I’ve walked along the rim for a few hundred yards. There are two young women in sleeping bags on a flat rock overlooking the desert, talking, laughing together while another friend reads nearby. I found a good lookout, then on one side below the rock shelves a grassy flat area with trees for more dozing in the sun, quiet, soft wind through the leaves.

 

As the sun went down we cooked up some more oatmeal and watched the doe and her fawn pass by again. Some people came and set up camp in the next campsite a few hundred feet from us. They started playing a mandolin, flute, guitar, and singing, harmonizing old songs, Long Black Veil, Celtic, the corn in the fields, listen to the rice when the wind blows cross the water, King Harvest is surely come. Oh, it’s good, alright. Photo: Sunrise 1.1.2008

 

Got up at 6:30 – went to the rim to watch the sun rise (like a girl we met on the trail said she did) up from behind the mountains in Mexico. We found some rocks down below the big flat rocks on the rim and got down in them kind of out of the wind to watch the first dawn of the New Year (though we had forgotten it was New Year day). Oatmeal for breakfast, went over to the next campsite and thanked the musicians and hit the trail, walking along the rim for ½ mile and then heading down for the longest hike of the trip. Down, down, down the Boot Canyon trail to Boulder Meadow.

 

Last night I dreamed that I walked into our house that looked different than our house. Chuck was there, next to something big and wooden he’d brought from India. Leslie was irritated that I hadn’t called Glen M about something I have no idea what. We talked for awhile and I realized we both looked like we did 30 years ago. Then she was smiling … a happy, happy dream.

 

I was at a church with newly arrived refugees, most very sick, lying 2-3 to a pew – a desperate deal. Lance and I were talking about something and Rebecca was there. Then we were at Lance’s house with a lot of other people and then outside where there a couple of guys with handcuffs, saying “Help us.” But then they got one hand free and started running away and guys were running up from all around with weapons – assault rifles mostly – getting ready for the big police ambush.

 

Boulder Meadow lies beneath the Pinnacles, a half-cirque of vertical rock formations, the rocks maybe 200-400 feet high up on the side of the mountains. As on previous days, we set up camp and fixed the biggest meal of the day. This day we had pasta with parmesan, olive oil, and herbs, which we fixed in a freezer bag (excellent) and salmon from a foil pack and cheese rolled in tortillas. After we cleaned up Jeff took a nap in the tent and I sat in the sun in foot tall grass near the campsite, writing a little, then lying down to doze in the warmth and fragrance. As the day ended Jeff and I walked through the forest of piñon, cedar, and juniper up toward the Pinnacles and sat by one of the huge boulders talking about amazing things. From my perspective it’s a little like I was talking with (an outlaw) Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac all in one person. Photo (that I can't increase the size of): Jeff and me at the Northeast Rim New Year morning

 

We hit the rack about 7:30. It was the coldest night of the trek and my feet never did get warm. In the morning we broke camp without eating or drinking, saddled up, and hit the trail – still downhill. The first time I was on the trail (at Thanksgiving) we were leaving our camp where a cougar was stalking the perimeter and in the snow on the trail there were deer, cougar, and bear tracks. This time it was just as cold, but there were no signs of wildlife that we could see it (our lack of seeing ability, of course). It took less than an hour to get to the lodge like a horse headed for the stable and a breakfast of eggs, hash browns, bacon – b-b-b-b-bacon and a lot of it, sausage, biscuits, gravy and to top it all off, pancake/syrup/butter and guess what – more bacon.

 

Last summer on a bus somewhere between Rangoon and Moulmein I lost almost all my commitments, except to Leslie and David and the mission. Somewhere along the trail this time I committed to being a better husband – aware as I am that Leslie is giving more than I am.

 

Lessons learned

- No dollar store bowls! So, Lexan bowl

- Make up freezer baggies of instant oatmeal (1.5 serving/bag) with brown sugar. Take separate baggies of pecans and raisins to add before or after the water.

- Need food prep tarp or cloth – maybe 2’x3’

- Bottle for olive oil

- Stuff sacks

- Pack with space left over because pack seems to get fuller as time passes

- Better sleep pad!

- Get ready for what comes next

 

Next? On Spring Break, maybe Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim and back to South Rim OR maybe Ozarks - not sure. Southeast asia in the summer, then either Rockies, Wind Rivers, or Sierras 

 

o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o

 

Big Bend, Thanksgiving 2007: Circling, whatever, aren’t you the guy …, how to see a mountain lion, the high point, my legs are pretty sore and we’re having a good time, cold ice wind and snow, randomness …

 

Circling: I was in Scouts until I was 13 or 14, so backpacked quite a bit when I was young. I dropped out of high school and ended up spending almost two years (in two stints) in Colorado, Wyoming, etc. rock-climbing (see post 9/8(1) in the 2007.2 journal) and living outside much of that time. Then I spent 2 years in the Marine Corps infantry and 13 months in Vietnam where, once again, I slept on the ground nearly every night. After that, I said, no more. David and I went to several camps together (we stayed up all one drizzly night, tending a fire – can it get any better?) and we hiked, canoed and biked together – quite a bit, actually, but backpacking (other than through SE Asia together for 2 months), I mean backpacking in the American outdoors sense – no. Now, 42 years later, the mountains call. And, given my age, I need to move pretty fast.

 

Thinking far, far more than usual during these few days about when I lived in Colorado, the Marine Corps and fighting in Vietnam. It was the backpacking and being in the mountains after all these years and because my young friend Chris left for boot camp while I was gone.

 

Whatever: Wednesday evening (day before Thanksgiving) Leslie drove me to North Dallas to a Walmart parking lot to meet up with the bus taking about 40 people on a Sierra Club trip to Big Bend National Park. The start was interesting: when I stepped on to the bus there was a man standing at the top of the steps in the bus. I introduced myself and he said something like, “Nice to meet you.” I asked him his name and he turned away. Strange, but it was just one of those whatever situations. It turns out he was the trip leader, Arthur. I found my seat and put my things away, then walked over to the Walmart and bought a $1 stocking cap. Back on the bus, met my seat-mate Gene – good seat-mate. He gave me the outside bunk on the way to Big Bend so it would be easier on both of us for me to make head calls. Of course I didn’t need to. On the way back, I told him thanks for the outside bunk. I’ll take the inside this time. Of course I needed to get up 3 times, which was no small thing as the incredibly narrow side-by-side bunks have just a little more headroom than the racks in the troop bays on a troop ship – and bus also has more interfering vertical bars, not to mention the age of the clamberer.

 

Aren’t you the guy …: The trip took 10 or 12 hours and we pulled into the ranger station in the Chisos Mountains in the early morning, filled our water bottles (3 liters/person) and gathered in our respective trip groups. (There were 5 different groups hiking different routes.) I was in group 5 – the Outer Loop, which was the most strenuous of the routes. We took off fast up the trail. After awhile we stopped and introduced ourselves and back onto the trail. After what I think was about an hour (who knows?), I realized I was pushing too hard and couldn’t go like that for three days. I’d been sick most of the previous week and though feeling much better, still felt drained and even with the little bit of hiking we’d done, was sucking air and my heart pounding hard in a way that didn’t feel good. I called to the leader, Emil, and told him I was going back down. He offered to go slower, but I didn’t want to be the one slowing the group down and have forced myself on too many marches and who needs that at age 63, so declined the offer. A man named Bill walked part way back down with me.

 

Flashback to landing force training in southern California hill country at Camp Pendleton – 20 miles walking and running cross-country with flak jacket, helmet, C-rats, and of course my M-60 (23.5 pounds unloaded), ammo, etc. Then patrolling at night and back across country the next day (couple of men having heat stroke – turning red and wandering into bushes, stumbling, falling unconscious. And the same thing in the Philippines, except in the jungle and up and down mountains (someone in another company died on one of those). And in Vietnam, pushing hard, except fighting along the way. Yeah, I don’t need no more forced marches.

 

When I got back, another group (group 1) had left their packs in the ranger station while they were on a day hike, so I waited there for them. When they got back, the leader (Faith) welcomed me, as did other members of the group. Someone (I think Jill) asked me what happened and I said, “I crapped out.” (A couple of days later we [group 1] met up with another group and two people asked, “Aren’t you the guy who dropped out of group 5?” I told the second person who asked that I wasn’t too keen on being known as “Aren’t you the guy …”

 

How to see a mountain lion: We saddled up and hiked up to Boulder Meadow campsite 5. I found a pretty good place among some trees to set up my tent. Most of the group went back down the trail for Thanksgiving dinner at the lodge near the ranger station. Bruce and I cooked our dinner at the campsite and talked until I was about frozen. I was in my sleeping bag a little after 7 and slept well until 7am with the wind rushing above. Photo (by Faith): on the way to the South Rim - Walt, Jill, David, Byan, Larry, Kay, Faith, me, Liz, Bruce

 

When I got up the next morning I walked into the woods to urinate and as I unzipped I heard a sound off to my right. I looked and about 30 feet away (I later paced it off – 10 paces) was a mountain lion standing sideways to me, looking at me. Big, beautiful tawny, big eyes. I flashed on Juana, a Mexican woman I know who has power over animals and I did what I though Juana would: I said “Hello, how are you” and went ahead and peed. Meanwhile the cougar watched me, sneezed a few times, sat down and licked her chest. I finished, zipped up and said something like “I hope I see you later” and walked away. When I looked back she was still sitting there, watching me.  A little while later at breakfast I told the people in my group what had happened and several of the men went to see if they could see it (they assumed it was a male, I thought it was a female – we later found out which it was).

 

Okay, here’s how to see things like mountain lions: keep your eyes open, get off the trail, walk slow, don’t make a lot of noise, find the secret places where animals go, be quiet in your mind – be here now, and be lucky.

 

The high point: After breakfast we did a day hike to the South Rim of the Chisos. On the way up we passed through several groves of oaks (Chisos oaks?) whose leaves were turning and falling, so the trail and was carpeted with beautiful pink, red, and gold leaves. At this point I began to realize that Big Bend is something really special (up until this point I’m kind of a Colorado snob). There were elements of the desert along this trail – all things thorny and unfriendly – but, yes, were in the mountains. There were junipers, some kind of smooth barked tree (I think it was Larry who told me its name, but I forgot what he said), laurel, and other trees along the trail up, up, and up.

 

I didn’t want to make this hike today, but I did (thanks for the encouragement and pointers, Faith) and felt decidedly strong this day than on the previous day. Along the way I began to say The Lord’s Prayer … Our father, who art in heaven … please, Father give us this day (to me it always sounds demanding to say “give us this day” – like gimme my daily bread) and I began to give thanks for my abundant daily bread – for my family, my wife, my son, my health, my job that I’m so sick of, Steve and David at work, Martha B., Debbie M., Linda G., Ron C., Chris S., Samnang, Mony & Sophea, the men in my Bible study, the people I was with this day, and on and on and on and I realized my soul was flying – flying like the blue bird out of the tree or the hawk soaring high off into the distance from where we were on the South Rim – flying, grateful.

 

My legs are pretty sore and we’re having a good time: We got to the South Rim, looking off, off into the distance into Mexico (I guess we could see into Mexico). That’s where we saw the hawk soaring high below us, then away, above... Photo by Jill

 

On the way back, through a beautiful little canyon with a mostly dry creek bed and another oak grove. It reminded of Mount Tam outside of San Francisco. I needed to pee, so climbed up over a little rise and there I was again, an amazing tiny little canyon with several caves and who knows what else further up. If someone was with me we could have looked into those caves (not to mention explore on up the canyon), but as time marches on, I am more cautious.

 

That night I slept warm with the wind rushing high above (but it was not windy where we were) and I heard the patter of rain or sleet on my tent. In the morning several people said they had heard something that sounded like cats, but not lion-sized.

 

We cooked all our meals in a circle by the bear boxes. I had decided that I would have a hot meal (freeze-dried, cook in the package) only at night and the rest of the time just eat granola and tortillas with cheese. (There were many days in Vietnam when I ate almost nothing but the ever-unpopular eggs, water added with ham – it came in little cans and a few cans a day would get me by. Mostly I carried my machine gun, 300 rounds of ammo all on one belt [I have a tee shirt that says “Happiness is a Belt-Fed Weapon” – you better believe it], three canteens of water instead of the usual two, a raincoat, a few cans of eggs water added with ham, Tabasco, cigs + the usual gear. So, you know, I’m fine with eating the SOS.) Anyway, back to the point: I saw that several people had Ziplock bags with a serving of oatmeal in them and they were just adding boiling water and there they went – a meal in a bag. I remarked on this and Bruce said that you could urinate in them at night, too. Being an older fellow who always is up 3 times/night, I was happy to hear this – a breakthrough for those cold nights.

 

On Saturday we hiked to Emory Peak, the highest mountain in Big Bend. It was a long uphill hike that about 50-70 feet from the top turned into a 4th class scramble (= cannot walk – have to use hands and feet to get up, but not technical). It was sprinkling a little by then and Larry and I made it to the top. As I went higher I began to feel the fear. The exposure was minimal and the rock just a little wet, but nevertheless, there it was – not fear, but the fear. I guess it must be age – I don't remember feeling it as much when I was strung out on a 30 foot unprotected lead 600 vertical/overhanging feet up a wall in Colorado or even in gunfights in Vietnam. Oh well, onward. Tashi Delai – Ever Onward.

 

Cold ice wind and snow: Down the mountain, drizzling steady now, walking into the clouds in the valley and a different beauty, and as I neared camp it was a drenching rain and cold and I was wet (don’t ask why I never did put on the rain suit I was carrying).

 

I crawled into my tent at 2pm, took my jacket and trousers off and lay on top of my sleeping pad and under my sleeping bag. Pretty damp! After an hour or so I took off my fleece and then the soaking wet flannel shirt (again, don’t ask why I waited so long). At some point I realized my long john bottoms were almost dry, so I took off the top and the wet t-shirt beneath it and put the long john top back on. The sodden t-shirt went into the corner of the tent with the also sodden flannel shirt. Back under the sleeping bag I felt better already. I lay there thinking about all the times I laid in a sleeping bag in the cold, waiting for the next day or the snow to let up and I thought about all the people who lay in bags and tents high up in the big mountains in serious snow storms in the West, the Alps, the Himalayas. I could hear Bruce and Liz talking and then singing together in their tent. I was reasonably warm and happy. Photo (by Faith): snowy day (that's cloud right here, not sky far away you can see through the trees - a mountain is straight ahead)

 

The rain turned to sleet and snow around 4pm and every time I peed in the bag inside my tent instead of outside I thought about Bruce – Bruce, I love you, man. As for the rest of you, leave me alone. I’m an old man and bodily functions is one of our favorite things to talk about. You want to hear more? Just kidding, nothing more, I think. A day or two before we left on the trip someone suggested that I take only the tent rain-fly to save weight. I looked up my tent vs. the one person ultralight tent and found that my tent weighed just 2 pounds more, so brought the whole thing – another bullet dodged!

 

Thinking about things I’m thankful for: my family, a good tent, some people at work, a job where getting it right is everything – even it means finding out I had it wrong.

 

I was really happy when I realized around 5 that my long johns were dry. I put on my dry socks and got into the sleeping bag and sorted out what I could have done differently (plenty – like put on the rain suit when it started raining or having a change of clothes – oh well).

 

In the morning the tents were covered in (granular) ice >1 inch thick in some places. The plan was to break camp and hike to the lodge for breakfast (mmm, bacon) and then hike out of the mountains. Taking the tent down was soooo slow, with so much ice (inside the tent, too) and my fingers icy cold and then numb and kind of hot feeling – how many times long ago climbing had they felt that way – knocking the ice off and untying lines and then the lion returned and began to scream. I saw it again, about 40 feet away, watching us. It stalked our camp, screaming and hissing 5-10 times as we broke camp. Our theory, zoologists that we are not, was that she had cubs nearby and had basically just had it with us being so close. Maybe I went too far that first day. Who knows. 

 

We walked the mile or so down the mountain – saw a deer on the way – to the lodge. We had a huge breakfast buffet – biscuits and gravy (Kay, Ms. Biscuits & Gravy), eggs, mmm bacon and sausage, potatoes, pancakes, coffee so on and so forth. After breakfast the fog rolled in and we took off into the mist, into the mystery down, down into a narrow canyon and then back up, up along a narrow trail with some exposure (one person having some difficulty with the exposure and Faith saying, “Take small steps, don’t look down”) – and all of us making it up and over a pass with a stunning view across the desert and then back down another hanging trail with some switchbacks and Bruce getting some great close-up photos of moss-like flora and finally down into the desert where a cold wind was blowing.

 

We took a break alongside a creek where “the tree” grew. Sitting on the ground, leaning against my pack with my legs straight out I feel like I’ve been sitting like this forever. Nevermind, it’s just a flashback. I wish Jeff was here. How many times did we rest like that with our weapons ready?

 

We walked for about an hour to a highway where we waited for the bus to pick us up. Passing out of the park, we saw several small herds of pronghorn antelope grazing in the sage and snow. Yeah, I’m grateful. Photo by Jill

 

We got back to Dallas more than hour early and learned that little fact 15 minutes before we arrived. So I called Leslie and then lay in my bunk while everyone else got off. I waited in the Walmart parking lot, leaning against my pack against a pole. Security called the cops so I got rousted. The police officer was so young. He reminded me of the Marine Sergeant (wounded several times) I met at a USMC Birthday Party several years ago (I think the 230th). Both of these young men made me feel sad.

 

Leslie picked me up around 5:30 – bringing a double espresso! So good to be together.

 

Randomness: it was very good and this was a good group. Everyone, as Faith said, Everyone had something unique to add to the group. The leader was Faith, who got it right at every turn and is fun, too. Kay was one of those people who just feels good to be around. Bryan was on his first backpacking trip and he made it just fine. Jill was older than I and just a few years ago made it to Everest Base Camp – a very good backpacker and all-around solid person. Larry was up and down the trail – Mr. High Energy. David and David (or Walt) had been friends since the 7th grade and they were kind of doing their own thing, solid. Bruce and Liz were a couple – Bruce was sick part of the time – very knowledgeable and helpful to me and Liz was another good-natured person and strong.

 

I think I walked about 28 miles. I’ll be sending this to Chris in Marine boot camp – no doubt he’ll be saying, oooo, 28 whole miles. Hey man, we’re old.

 

One really nice thing at Big Bend was being able to leave valuable things lying around. My next door neighbor gave me a bike a few weeks ago and I gave it to a newly-arrived Burmese refugee. I told him to watch it all the time – America is a nation full of thieves.

 

Things I did right: prepare (exercise); changed routes/groups; good tent, sleeping bag, pack (David’s – bought for ~$30 near Russian Market), great boots & socks, okay sleeping pad; didn’t follow the advice to bring just the rain fly for my tent to save weight – had I done so it would have been a big problem the last night.

 

Things to do differently next time: prepare harder; Ziplock 1 qt & 1 gallon cooking bags – for freezer bag cooking, etc.; leave cotton home; need new parka, down booties, container for stove, camp towel, change of clothes (need 1 shirt, 1 underwear), stuff bag for pad, 6x8 tarp from $ store; take less granola mix; put on rain suit before I get soaked!!!

 

Emory Peak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emory_Peak

 

Big Bend map: http://www.desertusa.com/who/PDF/BIBEmap1.pdf

 

Freezer bag cooking: (http://www.freezerbagcooking.com/